On September 1st, I decided to take a Facebook Sabbatical. Basically, I needed a break but also, as Facebook became more and more ingrained in my day to day life, I wanted to challenge myself. One month away from Facebook. How hard could that be?
Well, the first two weeks were strange and to be frank, off-putting. I found myself in a stage of weird denial, consistently trying to check my Facebook account without even realizing it. I would open a tab in my browser, start typing Facebook, and then stare blankly at the landing page, only to realize what I had done. Or I would wake up my phone or iPad from sleep mode, and again, stare blankly - realizing I was attempting to open the Facebook app that I had deleted when I decided to take the sabbatical in the first place.
This stage lasted for about two weeks. As time went by, the absent-minded attempts to check my account went away. And what came was....well...bliss.
I felt focused. I started writing letters to my friends and family. I called my mom and dad to talk instead of just writing on their Facebook walls. I read more; did more yoga. I know this sounds ridiculous but it is 100% true. I actually gained back time.
My biggest worry was that because of leaving Facebook, I would feel disconnected. But between Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram, I still felt as connected as ever. If anything, I felt less anxiety about having to check something or worrying about how to answer an awkward or negative interaction. I felt peaceful....until my sabbatical was nearing its end.
With about a week to go, I started getting anxious. I had dreams...DREAMS about checking my Facebook account. And I realized immediately that I needed more time away. So on October 1st, I logged in and deactivated my account completely. The nice thing about Facebook is that the company makes it VERY easy to deactiviate your account. They keep all your content, all your friends, all your pictures and likes. They save your account and tell you that when you're ready to come back, everything will be there waiting for you - as if you never left. In fact, it's difficult to permanently delete your Facebook account. Instead of clicking a button, you have to contact them directly.
After deactivating, I had about a week or two of feeling guilty. Yes, guilty. Was I being selfish by not being on Facebook? And even now, I occasionally feel like I might be missing something. But I'm starting to realize that this feeling of guilt is silly. I'm really happy not being on Facebook.
Yes, my website has lower stats. And yes, sometimes I learn about a news item or meme later than other people. But I have come to a sort of peace about that. And looking back, I'm wondering how I ever became so dependent on a social network for gratification, entertainment, and happiness.
My friend, Julie, asked me about why I think people need Facebook Sabbaticals but not Twitter or Tumblr or Pinterest. And I'm not sure I have the exact answer to that, even after a month and a half away from the network. But here's my best shot - there is a sort of highschool-ish social pressure that exists on Facebook but not elsewhere. I think, in some ways, it brings out the same anxious, awkward, and even bullying tendencies that we had in our teenage years. Maybe it's because we become "friends" again with old friends or maybe it's because Facebook is a relatively small group of people all smashed into a relatively small location when you consider the vastness of the entire Internet.
All I know is this - right now, I am truly enjoying my time away from Facebook. Things feel...slower. I am enjoying every second of that.
If you are interested in taking a Facebook break too, I HIGHLY suggest reading Baratunde Thursten's article on unplugging. He was my initial inspiration and he provides a road map for the action: http://bit.ly/1d72jqO
Will I go back? Maybe. I actually haven't decided yet. But for now, I'm working at a new job. Presenting like a mad woman. And trying to enjoy life as it comes.